Thursday, July 2, 2015

June Life-Lines

Five weeks with three precious GRANDS provided new glimpses of the gospel of grace.

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."
II Corinthians 12:9, in part

Glimpses traveled across the street. A new friendship with Jackie, an unexpected grace, provided special times for Judah and some one-on-one time for me with Naomi.

My sisters and me celebrating Mom's 90th
Glimpses traveled across the states. I'm so thankful for the love and support that emanates from my sisters and cousins. Many times their kindnesses called for tissues. I kept them close. 

Liberty Springs in the winter.
Glimpses from New Life Burbank and Liberty Springs PCA, the church our son now serves as pastor and his previous church; they are loving so well.

Glimpses traveled across the world through the prayers of many.

Glimpses from the mouths of babes. Judah's prayers for Baby Ez bless the socks off me.

Judah enjoying the salt water pool.
Glimpses came in the form of refreshing fun ... swimming in the neighborhood pool ... ahhh.

Glimpses came in the hospital room cuddling, caring for, and playing with Ezra.

Glimpses obvious as I conquered the Los Angeles freeways in Aubrey's 5-speed. PHEW!

Glimpses from others sharing God through their art. Thank you Sally for forwarding, Trust His Heart. The chorus reflects my desire -- to trust His heart.

Glimpses from the heart of God daily nourished especially in times when there was no time for opening my Bible. You, my friends shared many other words. Some encouragements are ...

"Yes, he loved his people,
all his holy ones were in his hand;
so they followed in your steps,
receiving direction from you,"
Deuteronomy 33:3
I pray these words for Jeff and Aubrey.

"Of Benjamin (the youngest) he said,
"The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long, 
and dwells between his shoulders."
Deuteronomy 33:12 (parentheses mine)
I claim this for Ezra ... he is the youngest.

Glimpses from being back in our home church last Sunday through the words of the guest preacher and former pastor, Joseph Wheat. He shared from Lamentations 3.
"But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:21, 22
These encourage me to look for God's mercies each day. 

What do your glimpses of gospel grace look like for you today?
As she sat in the hospital with Baby Ez, Aubrey stitched these words for me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ponderings in the Fray

UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital
June 21, 2015

It's Sunday morning. I'm enjoying the summer day sitting in one of the hospital gardens as I pen these thoughts. Blue above, green below, large fluttering leaves creating a barrier between me and the concrete. Beyond the trees red blinking lights signal an ambulance passing, but no siren; the aroma of fresh brewed coffee ready at my side, the finishing touch. Ezra sleeps soundly six floors up. Ahhh, quiet. It is good - a moment to fill my cup. I inhale deeply.

I read. I pray. I contemplate familiar truths.

"... you knitted me together in my mothers womb...
I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."
Psalm 139:13,14

Ezra's genetics are part of your loving craftsmanship. Ezra's creation are leading many around the world to new arenas of trust, prayers proliferating.

"Now they were bringing even infants to him ... 
Let the children come to me,"
Luke 18:15-17, ESV

Baby Ez
I don't remember the word "infants" being used (my memory said 'children'). Six month old Ezra, indeed an infant, is being brought to Jesus. Oh the encouragement of one little word!

Ezra won't remember the spring and summer of 2015, but it is leaving an indelible impression on his parents, his grands, and many, many more. Captured in pictures, words, and memories, we will tell him his story.

No, we would never have chosen this path. But we choose to walk with eyes and hearts responding in trust. And the beauty of new vistas are opening. Tears have flowed freely - tears because of pain, but more often tears full of wonder.

I turn back a few pages in Luke's gospel (Luke, the physician), and re-read the account of Jairus' daughter and the widow's son, children Jesus chose to heal. I'm especially stunned by the widow from Nain (recorded in Luke 7). She too has a large community surrounding her. Even in the midst of the big crowd, Jesus sees her and initiates toward her in her pain. Jesus gets it and Jesus comes.Tears of wonder, tears of joy arrive unbidden. The beauty of this new vista overwhelming.

Scripture after scripture come to mind. In the light of my now, I must choose, do I still believe these truths? What do they communicate now in the midst of my current? What do the new vistas reveal to me? My heart quiets.

Barb reminded me of the wisdom of Dr. Bruce Dunn, our pastor in the eighties. He encouraged the congregation to get to know God in times of ease, because in times of hard there will be neither the energy or the time. Yes, that is my experience; I'm relying much on the familiar.

What are you in the midst of? What are you hearing from God? I bet others will be encouraged by your encouragements. I know I will be.

 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:9

Aubrey, Jeff, Ezra, Judah, Naomi

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Roller-coaster Living

I have never liked roller coasters in amusement parks ... not even little kid ones. Is there such a thing?

But real life roller coasters are an affirmation from God, as if He we saying, you can handle this.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”. Romans 15:13
Naomi, fall 2014
My emotions swing high and dip low … kind of like 2 ½ year old Naomi as I push her on the playground swings.
My tears from hard and my tears from joy melt, mingle, and mesh. Life is crazy!

As Baby-Ez started his fifth week of bringing joy to his doctors, nurses, and other caregivers in his third LA hospital, the phone call arrived.
I listened to the message, my curiosity growing. I would have never guessed. Immediately I returned the call.
Her words quickened my heart; I shivered with goose-bumps. It's happening again as I type these words.This amazing news almost too good!

It was the beginning of an answer to a five year old prayer.

My friend had had breakfast the day before with the son of other good friends. He (the son) is homeless and alive and near. He shared very openly with my friend that morning obviously feeling safe with her engaging questions. She left knowing enough to contact me. I knew right away about whom she spoke. And I knew how to contact his parents.

This is a step, a beginning. Would you join me in praying for his rescue and praying for much wisdom for his parents as they absorb this story and consider how to move forward.

A life-changing read.
The very next day another piece of good news.

My husband's book, Lay It Down, Living in the Freedom of the Gospel, is printed and ready to be
delivered to bookstores. His project, his baby for the last two years is hitting the bookstore shelves two months ahead of schedule. (It may be in your favorite shop now ... definitely available on-line.)

Very exciting (but it didn't raise goose-bumps) and another dose of good news, very good news in the midst of hard.

The hard of Baby Ez's condition continues as the doctors try to balance meds to keep his Hyperinsulinism controlled. We continue to wait with the hope of a different hospital with a different approach that might make a difference.

I love my every third night joining him in his room, cuddling, playing, feeding, and just watching the wonder of this little guy. He celebrated his 6 month birthday in the hospital. He cut his first tooth in the hospital. He is working on sitting up.

And he is teaching me and many others new lessons about trust.

God knit him together in his mother's womb. He was created with purpose. His ministry is spreading around the world as this situation brings new opportunities to rely on the character of God ... not in how I understand it, but in His unique and special and mysterious ways.
Ezra, "I sure get a lot of love in the hospital"!

Hard, hard, hard mingles with overwhelming joy. God created me--US--to live both ... at the same time. Another amazing!

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
I Thessalonians 5:16, 17, 18

"Weeping ay tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning."
Psalm 30:5

Update: Ezra will be having surgery in early July. And he is sitting up.
             The good news continues with the son of our friends.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

On the Receiving End

One of the gifts of California is hills--yes, even in Los Angeles many vantages draw my eyes to hills.

Hills seen from the LA hospital window.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills. 
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth".
Psalm 121:1

These pictures of creation nourish.

The second hospital, the one with a Santa Monica address, looks out to the Pacific Ocean, a mere 15 blocks away. During those days I often stole glimpses of that work of God.

One afternoon we stopped at the beach. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, the smell of salt air, a gift to delight the soul.

Like Elijah, God entrusted me with a new assignment for this summer. And like Elijah, I'm stumbling forward--my humanity shining--sometimes with tears threatening to spill.

Many have come and blessed us with their love, their prayers, their meals (That chocolate cake may be the best I have ever tasted!), and even new pj's. I'm learning the humility of receiving. 

Texts, emails, and phone chats--love gifts from across the miles. Each bringing a new deep breath.
Enjoying a few minutes at the beach with Judah.
Many friends are bringing God to me. They text a scripture or send a link to a favorite praise song. These special ones are a life line.

The patience of our grown-up kids has amazed. Patience while waiting for the next test result, or the next talk with a doctor. Patiently loving on their other two little ones. Patience with me who might not do things the same way they do. Their patience creates an atmosphere of calm. It is good.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
ad he will make straight your paths".
Proverbs 3:5 and 6

I'm seeing this lived out.

I'm learning ...
1. Little ones have the same love needs (security, significance, acceptance, attention, protection, relationship) as adults. I'm on the front line.
2. I too still need moments of quiet. I'm trusting them to PBS and Sesame Street for a while each day.
3. Please ask me, how am I living ... not how am I doing. Thank you Kara. Your life continues to minister.

As this journey commenced, I penned these words ...

The story is young,
    The chapters are few.
But the force of the intro
    like a strong wind that blew.

The smiling happy baby
    connected to machines,
The picture raising questions
    as we wait and remember dreams.

The ER, the admission,
    medical tests galore,
The ambulance, the transfer,
    the fears, more and more.

But if not for this journey
    would I ever know,
The support of community
    new paths for love to flow.

But if not for this journey
    would I have tackled this step?
The stretching of growth
    inclining toward trust.

The story still young,
    the chapters still few
perspective from God,
    hope springs anew.

 "Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you."
Psalm 33:20-22

Would you pray for us that we live out these verses?

What encourages you in your times of hard? How do friends minister? How does the Word speak to your hearts?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A New Assignment

I Kings 19:15-21

God used Elijah in incredible ways. God listened to his prayers. God initiated times of talking with him. They were tight. His story is referenced not only in history of the Old Testament, but in the illustrations of the New Testament. It is easy to sit Elijah on a pedestal. Except that, God also shares his humanity with us. There are times when he toppled. Sometimes toppling times are the easiest to understand.

You know, I'm glad. No, I have not taken on and defeated 450 prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:20-40), but I do have stories of God using my life. I have answers to prayer. I have times of God initiating toward me, of hearing his voice in the sound of gentle quietness. And I am human. I too have times of, it is enough!

The progression of the story recorded in I Kings 19 is a great picture of humanity and God's ways. Just a few verses before the great victory at Mount Carmel is told for us. Elijah is the man! But then the man ... because of the threat of one woman ... is afraid, running for his life, and hiding. Great victory leading to great depression.

But he can't hide from God. (I've learned that too.)

While hiding the word of the Lord came to him. The word of the Lord came to him. God initiated. Elijah was too down to even consider coming to God.

God didn't need to shout, or use hurricane winds, or earthquakes, or fires, or anything miraculous. God whispered. The whispers of God shout in the souls of his people. Elijah heard.

And he responded, albeit in a 'poor me' way, but the conversation was underway. God had Elijah's attention.

God doesn't rebuke Elijah for his fear, or for running and hiding.                                                           God doesn't mention his eeyore-ish attitude.                                                                                            God seems to overlook all that humanity. He needs Elijah and has a job for him to do.

Elijah is commissioned to anoint two kings and Elisha the prophet. His role is to set up the next generation.

I've had victories.                                                                                                                                      I've had down times.                                                                                                                                 I've heard the voice of God in quietness.                                                                                                 I've been commissioned.

But the story continues. Actually we are not told if Elijah ever fulfilled that assignment. Hmmm. I think I want to veer from the story at this point.

Except for this ...

In great victory or in the reality of humanity, Elijah's story testifies to "The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God." (I Kings 18:39) 

How has God shown up in your life in the midst of your down times?
Who has ministered to you with the sharing of their humanity?
How can your story be an encouragement to your friends?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Roars and Whispers

I Kings 19:9-12

Evidently Elijah experienced a memory lapse. Forgotten are God’s miraculous provisions; forgotten are God’s wondrous ways; forgotten are the great victories. One person caused him to run. The roar was deafening. A cave seemed the best protection.

Do you identify?

I do. Oh how often I try to shield myself, to hunt for caves when the roars roar. 

The bad news: the big, the hard, the fearful roars of life overwhelm the wonders, delights, and victories. And I run to a cave.

The good news: God knows where my caves are. He does not hesitate to initiate toward me and communicate with me. 

“The word of the Lord came to him, (Elijah)” I Kings 19:9. The word of the Lord is a repeated theme in the story of Elijah. (17:2, 17:5, 17:8, 17:14, 17:16, 17:24, 18:1, 18:31, 18:36, 19:9) I couldn’t help but notice. In many of the cases God started the conversation.

The word of the Lord is a repeated theme for me as well. 

Like Elijah, God’s words come in a low whisper, more accurately translated from the Hebrew ‘the sound of gentle quietness’. The sound that is so opposite of the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. The gentle quietness created the atmosphere for Elijah to hear.

The roars of proverbial winds, earthquakes, and fires framed my story and set the stage for my ability to hear, in gentle quietness. It is good.

An upstairs bedroom was the setting for my first gentle quietness. It was there that I responded to His invitation to join His family. Then it was my dorm room and the realization that my prayers were punctuating the ceiling; it was a conversation not memorized words. I had stepped out of my cave.

The word of the Lord came to me in John 1:12. The scriptures began speaking to my soul.

The roars of life continue …. And so does my initiating God.  

I sometimes run for caves. I’m finding God is always there first.

The word of the Lord comes in an atmosphere of gentle quietness.

Jesus invites me in the midst of my roaring reality to quietness. I exhale. Quietness rejuvenates.

"Come to me all who labor, and are heavy laden,
                                                                and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

What things are roaring in your life at the moment? What do your caves look like? How are you experiencing the word of the Lord coming to you? Where are your places that gentle quietness is most easily heard? What word from the Lord is encouraging you today?

One more week on Elijah ... the new assignment ... God continues his purpose for Elijah.